I had the best time ever at the Scholastic Bloggers Book Feast on Saturday! The day was jam-packed with news about exciting upcoming book releases, a brilliant author panel filled with banter, fascinating insights into the editorial and design processes, a Hunger Games quiz, and the biggest book haul known to man. Needless to say there was a lot of flailing involved both at the Scholastic offices and when I unpacked my bags at home.
One of the biggest things I always love about visiting publishers is having the opportunity to see their offices, and the bookish touches they add that make it such a geeky place to work. Besides stacks and stacks of books (of course), Scholastic had fun quotes scattered around on the walls and doors, and some beautiful rows of books on display in the room designated for the Bloggers Book Feast.
After we'd all stocked up on sandwiches, sweets and drinks, while meeting some fabulous bloggers and some of the Scholastic team, we sat down for the presentations. First the team introduced some of their new releases, including The Sleeping Prince by Melinda Salisbury, Crush by Eve Ainsworth, Girl ♥ Girl by Lucy Sutcliffe, and The Museum of Heartbreak by Meg Leder.
C.J. Redwine, author of Snow White retelling The Shadow Queen (which I'm reading right now!) couldn't be there in person, but she did film an exclusive video for the Bloggers Book Feast in which she said that her novel is inspired by Grimm's fairytales and is an "epic showdown between two female characters of equal power". She also proclaimed her love for Britain, fandoms and she said that she loves it when her addiction to office supplies collides with fandom. Hear, hear!
Then it was time for some of the debut authors to take the stage and tell us about their upcoming novels and they all sound absolutely fantastic. First up was writing duo Mark Huckerby and Nick Ostler, who have been writing for TV and film for a long time (including Danger Mouse and Thunderbirds) but have ventured into the world of books for the first time with Defender of the Realm, a story of a very British young superhero, which they describe as Downtown Abbey meets Marvel. When King Alfie takes up the thrown he also discovers that he comes from a long line of superheroes and the crown jewels are actually weapons. It's up to him to defend the realm, quite literally.
Next up, Beth Garrod spoke about her debut novel, Super Awkward, and how apt she thought it was to be introduced as 'Super Awkward author', as she feels she's exactly that. Her book sounds right up my alley and while I am not a teenager myself anymore (and haven't been for a very long time) I think I will be able to relate a lot to the novel as I have plenty of moments where I feel super awkward too! And the novel also sounds very relateable because the main protagonist is a normal British teen, rather than a perfect American high schooler, which so many YA books feature. Beth said her book has Wotsits and Chomps, and a whole range of snacks for everyone. If that doesn't sound inviting, then I don't know what does!
Finally, Sue Wallman spoke about her novel, Lying About Last Summer, which was described by the Scholastic team as We Were Liars meets 13 Reasons Why. The book sounds incredibly intriguing and I cannot wait to read it, but what stuck with me most from this presentation was the emotional journey to getting published Sue had gone through, and particularly the reason for her finally deciding to pursue her dream to becoming a published author. Sue said: "Life is unpredictable and can change in the blink of an eye. It's often cruel and bad things happen, which is absolutely inevitable. What I want to get through with my story is to show that it is possible to hobble on with the support of other people. It [her book] is about finding different ways to cope by being kinder to ourselves and other people." Talk about inspirational! And, on a side note, she also mentioned how clever the cover is, because the stripe of colour on the front could be sunlight or blood, dun dun dun...
After a short break to top up our drinks and plates of snacks (and stack up on ALL the books for future reading pleasure) it was time for the author panel, which did not only include the aforementioned Mark, Nick, Beth and Sue but also two authors who just had a second novel out: Eve Ainsworth (7 Days, Crush) and Melinda Salisbury (The Sineater's Daughter, The Sleeping Prince). The panel was moderated by Scholastic's David Maybury and oh my it was so much fun! There was a lot of banter back and forth between all of them and I was basically cracking up laughing the entire time instead of making notes about their insightful answers to share, oops.
Highlights included an audience member asking Nick and Mark who would win in a superhero fight (cue the two getting up to stand off and find out), Beth said that her literary hero is Judy Blume and she saw the woman herself recently (which prompted David to ask whether Beth sneaked into Judy's garden), Sue said that when she writes in a public place she'll have headphones on with the sound turned off so she can eavesdrop on conversations , Melinda shared that her literary hero is J.K. Rowling (obvs) not only because of Harry Potter but also because Jo's background made Melinda realise that becoming an author isn't just for the privileged, and when talking about the toxic relationship in Crush, Eve revealed the shocking stats that 75% of girls between 13-18 experience a toxic relationship and 50% of boys, highlighting that this is a topic that should be more prominently featured in literature for young people.
Left to right: Nick Ostler, Mark Huckerby, Sue Wallman, Eve Ainsworth
Left to right: Beth Garrod, Melinda Salisbury, David Maybury
After the authors left the stage we had the opportunity to listen to an incredibly insightful panel about the editorial process at Scholastic, again with David Maybury and he was joined by editor Lucy Rogers, who talked us through the process from acquisition to publication and the various editorial stage in between. It was so interesting and I'd always been curious about the different types of editing within the book publishing industry (which is different from journalistic editing or even digital editing, where I am now) and so it was fantastic to hear how it works at Scholastic. I thought it was particularly fascinating to discover that the editor's role is actually very much a project manager role (opposed to copy editing or line editing), which after convincing the big bosses to take on a submission also includes briefing designers and being the internal book champion.
After the editor panel, it was time for the design panel which gave a whole different perspective again on the publishing world and a book's journey. When designers are working on a new book they do not only have to take into consideration the contents and target audience, but also the target retailer as, for instance, Waterstones likes a more gifty look to the books they stock and sell. We saw the entire design process for The Sineater's Daughter (from first draft to final version), and the various designs The Hunger Games has had over the years; from a striking 70s rebellion look through to the stunning camouflage editions (pictured below), which reminded me of the Vintage classics designs. Unfortunately these didn't make it into UK shops, but they did in Australia so I'm going to have to keep an eye out for those!
After the panels had come to a close it was time for a Hunger Games themed quiz. We were divided into teams by the books listed on our name tags and I was sat in Lying About Last Summer with its author Sue Wallman (which was brilliant, I just wanted to ask her ALL of the questions). The quiz was awesome and while we didn't win (which would've been a boxed set of all the movies on DVD, so cool!), we did come in a tied second place. Go team, Lying! To give you an indication as to how difficult the quiz was, see if you can answer the following questions (without Googling): What is President Snow's first name? Who gave Katniss the Mockingjay pin (in the books)? What is the name of the Gamemaker who was killed following the 74th Hunger Games? And what two things did District 4 thank Katniss for?
When the quiz was over it was time to say our goodbyes and try to put all our gorgeous new books in just one or two tote bags (or the journey home on the tube would've been impossible). It was a challenge, but expert bookstackers that were are, we did manage. I took a photo of my massive book haul when I got home (see below) and have even rearranged my bookshelves to make them fit and to dedicate half a shelf to just Scholastic books – they look beautiful!
Thank you to the wonderful Scholastic team for organising such a fantastic event! And thank you to the lovely authors for your insights into your incredible books and answering all of our questions (which did eventually came during the mingling sessions, during the panels we were all too much in awe to think of clever questions!).